Monday, December 02, 2013

Fish Report 12/2/13

Fish Report 12/2/13 
Cbassing OK to Excellent 
Bit Of Cooking 
The Good Ice 

A Tog Trip. A Special Tog Trip. 
Wednesday, December 4th – 6AM to 3PM – Scientific Collection.. Tickets @ $110.00. Twelve anglers sells out. Be some scientists aboard too. Green Crabs Provided. 

Will Open December Sea Bass Trips Via Email Only Pending Weather Forecasts. (Not liking the upcoming weekend just yet..) 

Bring A (not terribly big) Fish Cooler With ICE For Your Party.. A 48 or 54 QT Cooler Is Good For 2 Guys. Even Now You Should ICE Fresh Fish.. 

Reservations For Sea Bass Trips at 410 - 520 - 2076. 
LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations Are Common - I Make Every Attempt To Let Clients Sleep In If The Weather's Not Going Our Way.. 

Be A Half Hour Early - We Like To Leave Early.
Clients Arriving Late Will See The West End Of An East Bound Boat.. 

If You Won't Measure & Count Your Fish The State Will Provide A Man With A Gun To Do It For You. We Measure & Count — ALWAYS — No Exceptions!

Bids Too Low! 
A Gift From Tom Jackson, There Are Three Jimmy Jackson Prints – Numbered 1 of 1, 2013 –  on display & set up as silent auctions at Ake Marine, Ocean City Fishing Center & Sunset Marina. Stunning. Proceeds & payment made to Ocean City Reef Foundation, a tax deductible 501c3.. Auction Ends December 15th @ 5PM..  
8,052 "Oyster Castle" reef blocks by the rail – 2,414 at Jimmy's Reef – 1,444 at Ake's – 264 at Lindsey Power's.. 

Need a new batch of blocks REAL soon. See if you'd care to help fund the next truckload, or snailmail a check – any check! (Thanks Alex!) 

Trying to keep a large selection of OCRF long-sleeve & ss t-shirts aboard.. Best Stocking Stuffer Ever! (aside from Morning Star Gift Certificates) 

Need a new deckhand.. Part Time for now. Do not call if interested – email only. Responses Take Time. 

Greetings All, 
Have had at least some sea bass limits everyday with limits all-around the rail another. Jigging's been pretty consistent, but bait's better for cooler filling. 
Blues are verging on being a nuisance. If you want them, bring a bigger cooler with ice. 
Spiny dogfish are a pain in the neck. Truly like a pack of dogs, they've been running us off good spots. They come, we move. 
Made bluefish cakes Saturday night. Using that world famous crab-cake recipe off the Old Bay can, I found we had no bread  ..had plenty of leftover stuffing though. 
Cakes were right tasty with a touch of sage & celery.
I also like Uncle John's baked bluefish w/mild Mexican salsa. Don't be afraid of fresh blues. They're Good. 
Had 4 kids over for dinner one night. Served a mess of fried sea bass & that super-simple bluefish recipe. Bluefish disappeared first & fast.. 
There's this recipe for sea bass I know won't make another day in the fridge or fresh blues too: Par-boil red skin taters and sauté the crisp out of some peppers & sweet onions in a fry-pan. Season veggies with  ground pepper and cover the bottom of a suitable baking dish. Pack fish one layer deep overtop. Pour a bunch of FRESH salsa -the good stuff- over the fish and cover with shredded cheddar.. 
Bake to suit. Ten minutes @ 400 degrees per inch of fillet thickness works.. A bit longer with all the veggies. 
Secret weapon on all fish & has been a gift for decades from Uncle Jesse — Williams & Sonoma's "Potlatch Seasoning." 
Best bachelor grub ever: A Serving Of Fresh Fish In A Bowl – Bit Of Butter – Potlatch. Cover The Bowl. Microwave 2:30 Or So. 
That's good living.. 

Always trying to figure things out; I've observed spending patterns in fishing for years. One thing I'm trying to reckon is why they only sell the good ice from November thru April. 
Buy a bag in July and you'll soon need another. 
Ice we bought last week is still keeping our bait chilled.. 
I wish manufacturers would make the good ice in summer too. 

It happens that we had the good management of sea bass a while back, a decade and more back. Our region's sea bass population grew & grew even though we were catching & keeping lots of sea bass – more than we ever did in the worst days of real-overfishing. We caught incredibly more in the 6 years after management began than in my 16 years before regulation existed. We caught sea bass at 9 inches and their number tripled. We caught them at 10 inches and they doubled. We had a brand new 25 fish creel limit in 2002 (kept all we could catch before) — Limited out a LOT in 2002 and almost every day in 2003. 
That was the good management. 

It also happens that in 1997 the MuRFSS rec-catch estimate folks said there was a 1,220,000 spike in NJ's for-hire (mostly party boat) catch. I have it on paper from 1997 that management wanted to raise the then-new 9 inch sea bass size limit to 10 inches: Here Was Cause. In 1998 there was a coastwide size increase and late summer closure because of the MuRFSS asserted million+ fish-spike just in the NJ for-hire fishery. 
(I'd been fishing a strictly enforced 9 inch boat-limit since 1992 and supported the size increase w/o regard for cause.) 

That was an INCREASE of 1.2 million sea bass for NJ's party/charter fishers. 
Just New Jersey. 
Everywhere else catches remained about the same. 
After only 2 years of a little regulation; fishing was very, very good. 

Then too there's solid science claiming water temperature increases in Southern New England. Their water has warmed into sea bass's spawning sweet spot. We've had an enormous rock-filled habitat expansion at the northern end of the sea bass's range. It would cost billions to replicate this new area of habitat with artificial reef construction. 
At the same time, however, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is touting their far-more southern region's sea bass recovery: Presumably the southern Mid-Atlantic's waters should still offer first-class sea bass habitat as well with no loss of production: There's been an expansion of habitat, not a shift. 

There was a 3.15 million pound recreational quota back in 1998. With much smaller fish being legal, I'd anticipate it would take about 7 million fish to have filled our quota. 
Now there's a 2.26 million pound quota and, at a 12.5 inch size limit, I'd anticipate we're being be allotted about 1.5 million sea bass from Massachusetts to North Carolina. 

Back then every state was catching close to our entire current quota except Southern New England. 
Those NJ party/charter skippers who were catching multi-millions now average about two hundred thousand. 
Even without allowing for habitat expansion; If sea bass were still spawning as they were back then we'd be putting 5+ million sea bass "in the bank" every year. 
Sea bass live about 12 years. 
You wouldn't just add these years of uncaught fish together though to see how many fish we have in the bank. All these unharvested sea bass should ALSO be spawning.. 
With catch restriction getting tighter & tighter and sea bass spawning & spawning – the population should be at an incredible high. An angler literally shouldn't be able to hit bottom with baited hooks.. 

Ah, nope. 
It's shrinking. 
Has been since 2004. 
We catch less & less fish, in less & less season, with less & less clients while sea bass spawn less & less. 

Management's looking for the good ice with one single path – catch restriction. 
Statistics, bad ones at that, are holding all the cards while population biology & habitat ecology haven't even been invited to the meetings. 

By advancing the size limit above 11 inches we tricked sea bass into spawning 2 years later than they were in early management. 
That was a long time ago. 
Management by statistic alone & scientists "feeling" creel limits are excessive and size limits too small is destroying this fishery's biological potential. 
The Magnuson Act calls for Optimum Yields in our fisheries. 
We're so far removed from OY in sea bass, I fear we may never see a return path. 

I watched long years before real regulation, watched sea bass close. The color shifts in tiny male sea bass don't lie. They used to all participate in spawning by age 1. 
Now most are spawning by age 3. 
Plain as melting ice in a summer sun; this fishery's troubles lie not in overfishing, but in over-regulation. 


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

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